Blogs > Cliopatria > Manchuria and Iraq, 1932 and 2004

Jun 5, 2004 6:14 am


Manchuria and Iraq, 1932 and 2004



I sent a link to my recent HNN article along to the scholars on the H-Japan and H-Asia lists, suggesting it as a change of pace from the Vietnam analogies. Reponses have been appreciative, but, and this is what makes the technology so much fun, someone knew something I didn't and shared it, for which I am thankful. Michael Penn of the University of Kitakyushu wrote

You may be interested to know that the analogy between Iraq and Japanese Manchuria is much older than you suspect. On September 27, 1932, the Tokyo Asahi Shinbun wrote an editorial entitled"Iraku to Nichiman Kankei" (Iraq and Japanese-Manchurian Relations). The point they wanted to make was that Japan's activities in Manchuria were comparable to the British role in Iraq, and therefore Japan should not be criticized by the West.
So I don't have to feel bad that (Pulitzer-prize winners) John Dower and Herbert Bix got there first: they were seventy years late, themselves!

I can easily imagine the Japanese in 1932 making the case that their activities in Manchuria were comparable to Britain's in Iraq: paternalistic developmentalism, resource stewardship, fighting anti-modern insurgencies. The League of Nations Mandate system sounded good, but it sounds like they were little more than dressed up colonialism. Japan certainly saw itself as acting in the same tradition that brought India under British control, turned Afghanistan into an imperial chessboard, chopped Africa into polyhedral shapes, brought China to its knees, and called it"modern progress." It was the hypocrisy of imperial powers condemning latecomers for imperialism that drove Japan and Italy out of the League of Nations; and the parallel between that and the hypocrisy of atomic weapons pioneer and unchallenged world leader USA condemning latecomers for"proliferating" is more than a little troubling.

We have got to be capable of better. Wouldn't it be easier to do the consistently right thing than to have to keep explaining ourselves, over and over and over?


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